El Choco Protected Area
A cave at El Choco
After just a short time in the Area Protegida (Protected Area) Cabarete and Goleta, you have no doubt in your mind as to how this lush and diverse area was named a "National Monument". One of the newest additions to the 70 currently registered Protected Areas in the Dominican Republic comprising an incredible 23% of the country's total land area, the park is still suffering from somewhat of an identity crisis due to reclassification by the Dominican's Department of National Parks. Any local will tell you that its real name is "El Choco National Park".
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|From Pico Duarte, the highest point in the Caribbean, to the manicured gardens atop Mt. Ysabel de Torres overlooking Puerto Plata bay, to its endless array of unpaved roads winding through colorful Dominican communities, the DR has something to offer to all hikers. |
Bordered by the foothills of the Cordillera Septentrional to the south and the Cabarete Lagoon to the North, the park guards 77 square kilometers (48 square miles) of pasture land, lagoon, jungle, tropical plants, Caribbean birds, caves, and abruptly jutting hills. Many of the freshwater springs encountered in the park have subterraneous origins deep in the belly of the earth.
Unlike much of the Lesser Antilles islands, the majority of the Dominican Republic does not have volcanic origins. The subtle collision of tectonic plates below the Earth's crust around 50 million years ago pushed the ocean floor up in jagged points. Years of erosion have rounded the points giving the foothills seen from Cabarete the appearance of a green upside-down egg crate. Once in the park, it is obvious that these hills are actually old coral reefs.
An area of astounding beauty and many hidden secrets, the Area Protegida Cabarete and Goleta should not be missed. Accessible from either end of Cabarete, a visit can last from just a few hours to the entire day. It is VERY easy to become disoriented in the park due to the dizzying maze of unmarked footpaths and the extremely lush vegetation. We highly recommend that your first visit be with a reputable guide company. The funky named and internationally renown, "Iguana Mama", leads 1 hiking and 3 mountain bike trips in and around the protected area. At the Callejon entrance, there is also the Cabarete Caves Company, which offer 1.5 hour tour suited for all ages. It leads through impressive areas and hillls accomanied by very interesting explanations.
HOW TO GET THERE: While there are several dirt paths and small rocky mule trails leading into the Area Protegida Cabarete y Goleta, there are two main entrances. Located on the eastern side of Cabarete at the end of the "Callejon de la Loma" road, about a 15-minute walk from the center of town, visitors may gain access to the park at the "Cabarete Caves" office. For a more remote experience, a 5-km (3-mile) ride in guagua or carro publico heading west out of town will bring you to the roadside community of Islabon. Just before the Islabon bridge, a small road proudly bears the sign "Area Protegida Cabarete y Goleta" at its entrance on the right-hand side. A 5-minute walk brings you to the park entrance. Visitors should expect to pay RD$50 per person to a National Park official for admittance at both entrances.